Apostle Paul told the Corinthians to test themselves. Since Paul said it, we should do this as well. It is important to always be mindful of our faith, test it, examine ourselves, and see if we are straying. First, let's look at the verse to see what it says, then let's look at the context to see what was happening then and why Paul said it, and last let's see how to take this test, or make this examination. For some who make an examination, it will reveal a lack of salvation in the first place.
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).
We know in our day at this point in the timeline that there is prophesied to be much deception in the church body. False doctrines will enter. Wolves in sheep's clothing. Man-made doctrines which is the same as saying doctrines of demons. People will not stand for sound doctrine, and will like to have their ears tickled instead. (Luke 21:8, 1 Tim 4:1, Acts 20:29, 2 Tim 4:3, Eph 4:14). But the church body was always plagued with falsity. It began almost immediately with the believers at Corinth.
The Corinthians had made a good start. They all converted at about the same time, when Paul came as missionary and preached the Gospel. But Corinth was a severely pagan place, and after Paul left, they had started to slide back to pagan ways, even allowing pagan practices into the church. They were acting selfishly and even gorging and drinking to drunkenness at the Lord's Supper, bringing shame to the church. (1 Corinthians 11:21).
Paul was urging them to look at themselves individually and see if they were selfless, pious, modest, and humble. But not to muse about it intellectually, but to go forth and live the Gospel selflessly, piously, modestly, humbly. He wanted them to conduct themselves according to the standards to which a mature Christian should behave. It is walking with the Lord and being active in our faith daily that brings us strength and as we grow stronger in Him (the Holy Spirit regenerates us more and more) then when trials come, we can withstand.
As it stood then, Paul knew that when the trials would come, and then when the persecution came, the Corinthians would not be able to withstand. In 1 Corinthians 3:2 he complained then about them still not being able to have meat, and still being babes in Christ and on milk. He is trying to wean them so they could stand on their own two feet, strong and brave, ready to withstand satan's buffeting, of which Paul knew only too well.
So it is well with us if we examine ourselves from time to time to see if we are growing, or even if we are in the faith at all.
How do we know if we are saved, if we pass or if we "fail the test"? First, ask yourselves,
Am I sensitive to sin? My own and others' sin, such as on television or movies? A growing Christian will look back at the early days of their conversion and see the sins they tolerated back then are no longer tolerable. Swearing bothers you. Entertainment depicting adultery piques your anger. Blasphemy hurts your ears. Obviously demonic novels and movies will no longer appeal. If they still appeal, then examine yourself further to see if you pass the test. A growing Christian grows away from sin and when we do sin, it breaks our heart.
Here is a Paul Washer sermon that examines sensitivity to sin in the saved or unsaved Christian. Hunker down for the long haul because it is an hour and 13 minutes. Audio only. But if you have gotten this far, finding the blog, reading this essay, getting down to this point, you need to hear him preach on sin. Sin is the foundational differential between being saved and unsaved. Do you recognize you are a sinner, and have you repented? If repented, are you sensitive to the effect sin has on your life and what a blight it is on Jesus' name?
Secondly, does your faith grow stronger through trials and not weaker? In this essay by John MacArthur, he answers the question about why it is bad to appeal to people's emotions at an altar call. He said that the church is filled with tares, flooded with them. They have no firm root (Mark 4:17) so when a strong wind comes they are uprooted and blow away. If your faith is firm, nothing can prevail against it because the root is Jesus. The essay is not long and it will help understand how your response through trials and even persecution can illustrate if we are passing or failing the test. If trials make you hate God and you stop going to church and doing good works, you are failing the test. If trials make you love Him all the more, then you are passing the test.
Does your walk bear fruit? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says if anyone is saved, he is a new creation. As a new creation, one made in His image, we want to glorify Him and do things that expand His kingdom. Those things are works. Matthew 7:16 says people will be known by their fruits. An apple tree isn't named because of distinctive bark or a certain shaped leaf. It is named an apple tree because it bears apples. It is the apples that are useful. When the Spirit prompts us to do a work, we do it. Doing this work in the Spirit's strength bears fruit. Ephesians 2:10 says we are created in order to do good works, which He has prepared for us beforehand. Being holy, growing in righteousness, doing things in His name for His name is showing the world that the Light is in us. Anyone who is not doing good works for His name is likely not saved. James 2:17 says faith by itself without works, is dead. Clarke's Commentary explains, "The faith that does not produce works of charity and mercy is without the living principle which animates all true faith, that is, love to God and love to man." Here is a Charles Spurgeon devotional that explains bearing fruit.
So there are three quick but not exclusive criteria for examining yourself to see if you pass the test: sensitivity to sin, strength through trials, and bearing fruit of good works.
In the verse Paul warns us not to fail the test. You might be thinking, 'big deal. I've gotten a F on a test before and just made it up later. Or went to summer school..." How big of a deal is it if you fail the faith test? VERY BIG. Here is what happens:
"“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:21-23).
In verse 22 you see the surprised cry of those who had deceived themselves. They had done works, but had not had faith. They had not done the will of our Father who is in heaven. The will of the Father is to believe on the One He has sent. (John 6:29, 6:40). But many people in churches are busy, busy doing this and doing that and feeling pretty spiritual about it, too. They deceived themselves that it counted for something. None of it counted. All that they did had looked like spiritual work, but it was not. Why? It was absent a saving faith. They never knew Jesus.
The penalty or failing the faith test is not an F, it is being cast away for all eternity. THAT is the penalty for failing the test. You must do the will of the Father, which is to believe. Do you believe? Not sure? Here is a short essay on "How to detect a false conversion" from GotQuestions.org.
It's hard. The Christian life is hard. It goes against our nature to be good, loving, humble...Life doles out hard knocks and our faith is tested and then it is tested again. It is a struggle. Paul said it was and it is. But it is so worth it! Life on this earth is temporary. It is a temporary location, and heaven, soon New Jerusalem, will be our home forever. Examine yourself, live for the faith He died to give us! And then, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Revelation 21:7). Examine yourself today. Don't wait.